SGA: The Spirit Scenes from Time Past
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[楼主] jessie.xie 2010-06-14 12:39:05
The Spirit Scenes from Time Past
Yue Minjun Solo Exhibition of Paintings Series “Landscapes with No One”

Duration: April 19th, 2010 – May 23 rd, 2010
Opening Reception: May 3rd, 6 – 8pm
Location: Shanghai Gallery of Art @ Three on the Bund
Address: No.3 the Bund 3rd Floor 3 Zhongshan Dong Yi Road Shanghai

What is “time”? What is “history”? And what are “idols”? When the warriors on the Luding Bridge and the leaders on the Tian’an Men fade from the stage, there will still be eternal scenes reflecting history silently. In the vast red space of the Shanghai Gallery of Art, Yue Minjun’s painting series “Landscape with No One” transfers people’s collective visual memories into the spirit scenes from times past. With his special retrospection on history in the present moment, the void without idols is filled with a different scene of chaos, with nothing as unique or certain as an idol. In the 21st century - the age of the image - it is difficult to distinguish between illusion and image, the virtual and the real, so the artist chooses blankness to win more power. The most desolate scene reflects the noisiest reality.
Born in 1962 in Daqing, Yue Minjun is one of the most leading artists in the Chinese contemporary artists, especially famous for his signature paintings of smiling faces.



The Spirit Scenes from Time Past
Analysis on the Creation and Expression of the Series “Landscapes with No One” by Yue Minjun

Zhang Qing

The New China’s art history has been developed over more than sixty years and undergone great changes. If someone lost his memory in 1976 and were to wake up in the modern Shanghai of 2010, he would feel that he were in a different era or foreign country. In the last sixty years, forms in Chinese art changed from Realism, such as revolution paintings and propaganda paintings to New Realism, Cynical Realism, decoration, and visual art. In addition, art forms changed rapidly and greatly during China’s economic reform. In the 1980s, mainstream Chinese society was in the midst of a period of cultural reflection, and so both form and content had an anti- idolatry flavor. In the 1990s, the capitalist economy and the globalization of art caused a closer relationship between art and commercial products, and Chinese artists discovered Chinese icons and employed them as art elements. And so they entered the international mainstream art circle. Their art works express the history of Chinese culture and politics. Unconsciously, they express the rich Chinese reality at present.

Yue Minjun is one of the artists who became famous in the 1990s and he is also the representative of the Cynical Realism. His art works have a special sense of humor that dispel Chinese’s idol complex – heroic revolutionary idols that lasted for more than ten years. Zealous Chinese youths, one generation after another, lived under the flame of the sublime idols. But in the 1990s, those idols disappeared overnight, and the revolutionary slogans, spirit and values were washed away by economic waves. Yue Minjun’s works respond to this reality. People in his works laugh big, not like revolutionary heroes smile with confidence, not like those farming middle-aged women laugh from their heart because they finally can be their own boss, but just laugh, laugh without any reasons and consequences. The laugh represents an era’s emotion and expression and can be duplicated infinitely. So in a sense, the infinite duplicated smiles overturn infinite duplicated idols. Yue Minjun’s early creative sculpture Terra-Cotta Warriors presents a group of people standing in a line as if they are doing gymnastics, carrying indescribable smiles. It seems like they are waiting for orders, and waiting for others to laugh the way they do. Works of his with a similar theme include Pyramid, Red Flags Flutter, Holiday and Long Live. These works deliver a generation’s collective memory for Cultural Revolution and also convey the relationship of memory and reality.

Yue Minjun excavated all sorts of classical elements from the art works in the last thirty years of New China’s art history. He employed his “idol” images and then restated and reassembled. On the one hand, as what Yue Minjun said, he overturned the idols. It’s cynical- a serious expression that overturns art in order to search for an interesting sense of humor. Yet there is one thing that can’t be ignored. That is, in his works, we can uncover a feeling of weakness from duplicated symbols and having no choice but to say goodbye to idols (heroes) from pop culture. In Yue’s work, we can feel clearly: overturn, self-mockery, self-examination, distortion, sarcasm, and a hollow and non-historical reality. As for the quality of the idols, idols refer to the meager but what they encompass is abundant. As for the quantity, idols refer to great duplications but what they encompass is always classicized into just a few categories. When someone’s reflection of idols becomes a daily behavior, he wakes up from his dream.

On the road of overturning idols, Yue Minjun never stops thinking and practicing. Yue Minjun’s Landscapes with No One series is another oil painting style from his recent painting. This style originates in some popular Chinese and western oil paintings, including Li Zhongjin’s Take the Luding Bridge by Storm, Dong Xiwen’s Tian An Men Remains, Chen Yanning’s Chairman Mao Visits Canton Countryside, Jin Shangyi and Pen Bin’s My Trust on You, Chen Yifei and Wei Jingshan’s Seizing the Presidential Palace, Dai Baohua and Qin Daohu’s Glorious Post, Luo Gongliu’s Mao ZeDong at the Jinggang Mountains. These are all classical art works created in the developing era of Chinese revolution and socialism. Yue Minjun’s intention in his art work is to take out the main characters in the original paintings to create a strong contrast between the scenes you view and the scenes you remember. Furthermore, he emphasizes those important scenes in the Chinese revolution and developing Socialism era and also innumerable revolution martyrs and specific meaning of great socialists in the specific scenes. This series of works shows Yue’s big leap in his artistic discoveries. With inspiration from discovering historical scenes and collective memory in New China’s art history, he was able to remove the idols from those scenes and then undo those scenes. For these reasons, the creative ideas in his works and his manner of expressing them are especially outstanding.

What is an era? What is history? What is an idol? We have to admit that an era always moves forward and experiences ups and downs. When the luxury of Tang poetry is substituted by the refinement of Song Ci (poetry), when A Night of Flowers and Moonlight by Spring River is replaced by Yellow River Cantata, when the warriors on Luding Bridge and the leaders on the Tian An Men have faded from the historical stage, the unaltered scenes represent history without a word. Yue Minjun uses concepts to create this kind of void; the void due to no idols is actually filled by the scenes of souls enjoying themselves. However, there is a lack of uniqueness and certainty. The 21st century is the era of videos, shadows and pictures, the real and unreal. It’s difficult to distinguish the real from the unreal and so the painter chose a partial blank. Thus, this blank is more powerful.

Famous western art works were extraordinarily meaningful to Chinese young artists at one time. They became a way for Chinese artists to learn about western culture when China was opening its doors to the world. From this point, these art works are a kind of “idol” as well. Yue Minjun faces those western idols again and uses the conflicts in the images you see and you memorize to reinterpret those art works. When the girl in Johannes Vermeer’s A Girl Reading a Letter by an Open Window leaves quietly, does it give the viewer a strong feeling like the sudden sigh one experiences when he watches You Yuan Jing Meng- Peony Pavilion? When there are only a bathtub and few scripts left in The Death of Marat, does it make the viewers feel they lose a friend of the people in a heroic era? When the farmer disappears in the Miller’s Angelus, we don’t know if the bell from the faraway church still rings or rings louder with the heavy wind. When there are only a rough sheet and a 150-year-old cat left in Manhay’s Olympia, that sensational model in 1860 finally fades away from history. History is every time, every second, and everything. For the past, history is physical quantity like words on paper or icons. Yue Minjun uses concepts to dispel the certainty of history. This is his work’s intrinsic meaning but to Chinese, these works have more emotional value. They dispel one generation of Chinese’s fresh, strong attraction to western culture.

Nietzsche said that there are more idols than real persons in the world. Idols indeed have a long history. Primitive people made stone or wooden puppets or painted in caves for the purpose of sorcery; In the Middle Ages, believers painted countless Madonna to express their religious devotion; Hundreds of years later, during Chinese cultural revolution, Chinese wore Chairman Mao memorabilia to express their admiration for the Great Helmsman. Today, the media uses colorful photos and videos to create a new idol for the modern young generation. Ultimately, idols come from only part of a real person. They try to replace real persons to satisfy artificial needs, for example, sorcery, religion, politics and commerce. The real living person can only contend with time by being materialized. In ancient Egypt, Egyptians chose to make real people idols. They made mummies because they believed that the souls didn’t die. What we can see from the development of the history of idolatry is that people instill a god-like spirit in the shells of idols. The spirit expresses their respect and fear, their seeking of the eternal. However, Nietzsche spoke in a voice loud enough to awaken the deaf. He said that God was dead. From the perspective of philosophy, did the westerners who lost idols obtain freedom or fall into a vacuum? Humanity won’t stop walking because they are thinking. Hollywood created a new kind of idolatry in the 20th century. With the wave of globalization, this type of idolatry has seeped into every corner in the globe. If you mention the word “idol” to a seventeen-year-old student, he would tell you his idol is Jay Zhou. But two years ago, it would have been F4. Idols nowadays are products with a short shelf life. A short shelf life means existing but not really existing. It’s like what Heraclitus said; people can’t step into the same river twice. Because Confucius said “The gone is gone.” So Yue Minjun chose a blank. Those desolate scenes actually reflect a noisy reality. The French thinker, Jean-Pierre Vernant said that in drama, the characters appear on the scenes without other purpose, but just to hide the fact that they are actually not at the scenes. This is fiction. All idols are fictional. And the Landscapes with No One series switches people’s visual collective memory to scenes of spirituality in the history. Yue Minjun uses his unique historical reflection and art forms to represent this concept very effectively.

(Translated by Iris Chiung-Yu Chen)


Artist’s CV:
Yue Minjun
1962 Born in Daqing, Heilongjiang province, China
1985 Studied in the Oil Painting Department of Hebei Normal University, China
Solo Exhibitions
2010 The Spirit Scenes from Time Past, Shanghai Gallery of Art, Shanghai
2009 The Archeological Discovery in AD3009, Today Art Museum, Beijing
2006 Yue Minjun: Manipulation Series, Enrico Navarra Gallery, Paris
The Reproduction of Idols: Yue Minjun 2004-2006, He Xiangning Art Museum, Shenzhen
Looking for Terrorists, Beijing Commune, Beijing
2005 Post Auratic Self Portrayal of Yue Minjun, CP Foundation, Jakarta, Indonesia
2004 Yue Minjun: Sculptures & Paintings, Schoeni Art Gallery, Hong Kong
2003 YueMinjun, Meile Gallery, Switzerland
Yue Minjun: Beijing Ironical, Prüss & Ochs Gallery, Berlin
2002 Soaking In Silly Laughter: One of Art Singapore 2002, Soobin Art Gallery, Singapore
Yue Minjun: Handling, One World Art Center, Beijing
2000 Red Ocean: Yue Minjun, Chinese Contemporary, London
Group Exhibitions
2009 Beijing-Havana: New Contemporary Chinese Art Revolution, National Museum of Fine Arts of Cuba, Havana, Cuba
A Gift to Marco Polo: A Collateral Event for the 53rd Biennale di Venezia, Venice
COLOSSAL: Art, Fact, Fiction -2000 years Varus Battle, Varus Battle in Osnabrücker Land / Archeological Museum and Park in Bramsche-Kalkriese, Germany
in-TRANSIT-ion: Vancouver Biennale 2009-2011, Morton Park, Vancouver, Canada
2009 Art Changsha, Hunan Provincial Museum, China
2008 Facing Reality-Selection of Chinese Contemporary Art, National Art Museum of China, Beijing
Half-life of a Dream: Contemporary Chinese Art from the Logan Collection, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Mahjong - Contemporary Chinese Art from the Sigg Collection, Museo de la Fundacion Joan Miro, Barcelona, Spain Berkeley Art Museum & the Pacific Film Archives, San Francisco
Beijing-Athens: Contemporary Art from China, Technopolis, Athens, Greece
Shanghai Biennale 2004, Shanghai Art Museum, China
Our Future: Collection of UCCA, Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing
2007 Red Hot, Huston Museum of Art, USA
Post Martial Laws vs. Post 89: the Contemporary Art in Taiwan and China, Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, Taiwan
2006 Radar: Selections from the Collection of Vicky and Kent Logan, Denver Art Museum, USA
Shu: Reinventing Book in Contemporary Chinese Art, China Institute Gallery, New York
China Now, Sammlung Essl Privatstiftung, Klosterneuburg, Austria
Mahjong: Contemporary Chinese Art from the Sigg Collection, Hamburger Kunsthalle, Germany
2005 Beautiful Cynicism, Arario Beijing
Sky of Fate: Invited Exhibition of Chinese Paintings 2005, Shenzhen Art Museum, China
Plato and His Seven Spirits, BJ Century Overseas Chinese City, OCT Contemporary Art
Terminal of He Xiangning Art Museum, Shenzhen, China
Open 2005: International Exhibition of Sculptures and Installations, Lido, Venice
XIANFENG: Chinese Avant-garde Sculpture, Museum Beelden Aan Zee, Hague/Scheveningen, Netherlands
Mahjong: Sigg Collection of Modern Chinese Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Bern, Switzerland
Dress Up in Art: Theme Exhibition on Traditional Chinese Operas, Today Art Museum, Beijing
No U-Turn: China Contemporary Art, TNUR Guando Museum of Art, Taiwan
Conceptual Art: Exhibit of Contemporary Paintings from China, Shenzhen Art Museum, Guangdong
2004 Dreaming of the Dragon’s Nation: Contemporary Art Exhibition from China, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, Ireland
Techniques of the Visible, Shanghai Biennale 2004
A Grain of Dust, A Drop of Water, Guangju Biennale 2004, Korea
Art on the Beach: Sculptures, Enrico Navarra Gallery, Ramatuelle, France
20 Years of Hanart TZ Gallery, Hong Kong Art Center
China, the Body Everywhere?, Marseille Museum of Contemporary Art, France
2003 From China with Art, Indonesia National Gallery, Jakarta, Indonesia
The Rest of the World, Neuffer Am Park, Pirmasens, Germany
Newe Kunsthalle Mannheim 2, Kunsthalle Mannheim, Germany
CP Open Biennale 2003, Indonesia National Gallery, Jakarta, Indonesia
People and People: Chinese Modern and Contemporary Art Collections of Guangdong Museum of Art, GDMA, Guangzhou
Living Conditions: Selections from the GDMA Collection of Contemporary Chinese Art, GDMA, Guangzhou
2002 Chinese Contemporary Art Exhibition: Red Land, China, Gwangju Art Museum, Korea
Korea and Chinese Painting: 2002 New Expression, Seoul Culture & Art Center, Korea
Chinese Contemporary Art, Rekjavik Art Museum, Iceland
A Point in Time: Changsha, Beauty Art Museum, Changsha, China
The 1st Guangzhou Triennial, Guangdong Museum of Art, China
Contemporary Terracotta Warriors: Inaugural Exhibition, the Esplanade, Singapore
Golden Harvest: Chinese Contemporary Exhibition, Croatia National Art Museum, Croatia
2001 Ornament and Abstraction, Foundation Beyeler, Switzerland
Hotpot: Chinese Contemporary Art, Kunstnernes Hus, Oslo, Norway
Towards a New lmage: Twenty Years of Contemporary Chinese Painting, National Art
Museum of China, Beijing; Shanghai Art Museum, Shanghai; Sichuan Art Museum, Chendu; Guangdong Art Museum, Guangzhou
Song Zhuang, Stadtische Galerie im Buntentor Bremen & Kunstverein Ludwigshafen, Germany
2000 Between..., Chengdu Upriver Residence, Kunming Upriver Club, China
Portraits of Chinese Contemporaries, the Culture Centre of Francois Mitterrand, France
Our Friends, Bauhaus University Art Gallery, Weimar, Germany
1999 Open Boundary, The 48th Venice Biennale, Venice
Transparence, Opacité,.14 Chinese Contemporary Artists, France, Italy
1999 Open Channels: The 1st Collecting Exhibition of Dongyu Museum of Fine Arts, Dongyu Museum, Shenyang, China
New Modernism for a New Millennium: Works by Contemporary Asian Artists from the Logan Collection, Linn Gallery, San Francisco
1998 The Grand Tour: Chinese Contemporary, London
The 1st Exhibition of Upriver Gallery Collection, He Xiangning Art Gallery, Shenzhen
It''''s Me!: A Profile of Chinese Contemporary Art in the 90s, Forbidden City & Tai Miao, Beijing
Beijing Prediction: Contemporary Art of China, Beijing
1997 Quotation Marks: Chinese Contemporary Paintings, Singapore Art Museum, Singapore
China Now, Tokyo, Japan; Basel, Switzerland
1996 China!, Bonn Art Museum, Germany; Kuenstlerhaus, Wien, Austria
Art to Swatch, take part in the Design of the 1996 Artist Collection of Swatch
1995 Vision of China: Contemporary Chinese Painting by Chinese Masters, Pacific City Club, Bangkok, Thailand
Contemporary Chinese Oil Painting Exhibition: From Realism to Post-Modernism, Theoremes Gallery, Brussels, Belgium
1994 Faces Behind the Bamboo Curtain: Works of Yue Minjun and Yang Shaobin, Schoeni Art Gallery, Hong Kong
1992 Yuan Ming Yuan Artists Exhibition, Yuan Ming Yuan, Beijing
1991 Contemporary Modern Art Exhibition, Beijing Friendship Guest House, China
1987 S Art Exhibition, Hebei Museum, China


Selected Artworks:

Gabrielle d'Estrées and One of Her Sisters,300 x 217 cm,2006,Oil on Canvas



Mao Zedong at the Jinggang Mountains,257x376cmx5cm,2006,Oil on Canvas



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